The Science of Common Sense or is there even?

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If there’s a book casing “The Common Sense of Science,” why can’t anyone discuss the other and beyond order? Where is common sense rooted? What is the science behind common sense?

As anyone is remotely interested with what science knows by now, human mind remains inconceivable. And to make things more convoluted, the famed social historian and critic once said, “the greatest obstacle to discovery is not ignorance […] it is the illusion of knowledge.”

Travelling back to when knowledge allegedly begun, in the ancient world, survival requires quick decision and is said to be normally crafted from either information stored in the brain (heuristic) or resisting contrary evidence known as confirmation bias. Discerning the shape of the Earth is one of the clear examples of how common sense affects understanding. Most primitive cultures see a flat earth. While other revolutionary ideas see a round earth.  Others see universe as geocentric while Copernicus proposed heliocentricity. Newtonian mechanics are counterintuitive, others believe Aristotelian motion.

Darwinian evolution theory also battles the idea of common sense and argued that biological world is intuitively discontinuous, time is intuitively local and mechanisms are intuitively deterministic. Darwin sees common sense as discontinuity in nature. Given the situation, connection between plants and animals became clear only in the mid 19th century after the discovery of cells, while way back in the pre-discovery era, plants and animals were seen as living organism and live food. Common sense provide us with limited concepts of no time and no concept of how physical world changes at timescales longer than human life.

How does it all relate to human common sense? Is common sense the very root of human intelligence? Is common sense the greatest human knowledge only in less sophisticated form? Does science undercut the idea of common sense?

Common sense, as how it is defined in basic dictionaries, is the ability to perceive, understand and judge things shared by nearly all and can be reasonably expect with almost all human beings without any need for debate. The idea and the science behind common sense are issues for philosophers and cognitive scientist alike. Philosophers debate whether or not variables of common sense really exist.

The beginning of science, according to Bronowski, instigated with the notion of order and the notion of cause.

“It is an experimental activity of trial and error. We must from the outset underline its empirical nature, because there is no test for what is like and what is unlike except an empirical one: that the arrangement of things in these groups chimes and fits with the kind of world, the kind of life which we act out.”

Newton also credited the notion of cause in relation to human cognitive development.

“Our conception of cause and effect is this: that given a definite configuration of wholly material things, there will always follow upon it the same observable event… As the sun sets, radio reception improves. As we press the switch the light goes on. As the child grows, it becomes able to speak. And if the expected does not happen, if reception does not improve, or the lamp does not light up, or the child persists in gurgling, then we are confident that the configuration from which we started was not the same… The present influences the future and, more, it determines it.”

Famous philosopher, George E. Moore further argued that one could prove that there could be worlds outside the mind as we all know that we have hands and grating that idea, the world follows. The existence of hands was at issues and that ordinary objects are something human need to understand.

Common sense is counter-intuitive or is it? Are we pattern-seeking primates?

In a sociological explanation of common sense, the thought structure of common sense follows no formation, is explicitly subjective and is subject to all manner of cognitive biases. Scientific pioneer Marvin Minsky, in his book, The Emotion Machine: Commonsense Thinking, Artificial Intelligence and the Future of Human Mind, argues persuasively that emotions, commonsense and full knowledge are not distinct things, rather different ways of thinking. Misky explained why our thought takes form of carefully formed and reasoned analysis and at other times turns simple and commonsense thinking. If human brain can be understood as fragmented part of human development than we can understood thinking as a step-by-step process that it is. New research shows common sense as a form of emotional or intrapersonal intelligence. Others treat it as synonymous to native intelligence.

But still these don’t validate any scientific beliefs. We have no ancient brain at hand to dissect it.

Victor Hugo, a famous French writer, put it thus:

“Common sense is in spite of, not the result of, education.”

On the other hand, Scott Sehon in his recent book, Teleological Realism, explained that the science of common sense is teleological and its causal explanation can be explained through the domain of physical science.  The brain, physiologically a mass of nervous tissue, delicate and sensitive, is divided into two main parts: the cerebrum, the larger and upper, the cerebellum, and the smaller, situated below and behind. The cerebrum consists of an outer zone, the cortex, or gray matter, wherein lays the nerve cells forming the various centers, and an inner portion, or white substance, which consists of bundles of nerve-fibers leading from the cortical cells and distributed over the entire body. The outer surface is laid in folds or convolutions. The brain is the seat of intelligence, the organ of the conscious mind. It must act before we can take note of what is passing on. Sehon suggests to replace causalism with teleological realism, the view that common sense can be explain by citing purpose of action.

Many scientists have made great strides in reducing information about organizational complexity of human brain from the intact organ to its constituent neurons, the proteins and the genes. Information processing, emotional control, computation and neural dynamics have hovered. Social, cultural and what we so-called “common sense” remained to occupy the highest landings of cognitive hierarchy yet remained vulnerable.

Common sense can contradict deeply held laws of nature and prejudices. It may not be related to what we believe is true. Common sense doesn’t determine what’s true.

Left unanswered was the question of how is “common sense” any different when it comes to false knowledge and ethical skepticism or even emotional intelligence. More to the point how cognitive science arrived at this so called “common sense” without being able to explain its science.

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